Instagram Hashtags 101: How to Use Hashtags on Instagram
Hashtags are one of the most effective ways of connecting your Instagram posts to your community, customers, and target audience.
In this post, we'll show you how to use hashtags to attract new followers, engage with your audience, and build brand awareness so you can grow your business.
What’s a hashtag?
A hashtag is a word, acronym, or a phrase used with the pound symbol (#) in front of it.
When you click on a hashtag you’ll be shown all the post on that platform that use the same hashtag — this is how you “connect” your posts to larger collections of content and discussions around a specific idea or theme.
Hashtags started on Twitter, but can now be found on most social media platforms including:
- Twitter (obviously)
Why use Instagram hashtags?
While the platforms listed above use hashtags, Twitter and Instagram are the platforms where hashtags are the most important. Some of the benefits of using hashtags include:
- Increasing engagement. Instagram posts that use hashtags see a 12.6% increase in engagement than those that don’t.
- Expand your reach. Hashtags make your posts, Reels, and Stories easier for people to find (this is known as “discoverability”) which helps you content be seen by a larger audience.
- Attract new followers. Hashtags help your posts get seen within niche groups, which means using them can result in more Instagram followers who have the potential to become customers.
- Improving brand awareness. Hashtags play an important role in helping your brand express its “voice” and build trust and familiarity with your audience.
How to add hashtags on Instagram
Adding a hashtag is super simple! Here are a few tips to help make it even easier:
- Don’t use punctuation. Hashtags are all one word — don’t use spaces or punctuation (eg: #ThisIsRight, vs. #This-Isnt-Right)
- Use title case. Capitalizing the first letter of each word makes it easier for people to read your hashtag, and makes your hashtags more accessible since screen readers are much more likely to read the hashtag as intended vs. reading it as one, long and jumbled word.
- Don’t repeat your hashtags. Using the same hashtag twice in the same post doesn’t help discoverability, so stick to using one hashtag one time per post.
- Double-check before using a hashtag. Some hashtags might be associated with inappropriate content or content that isn’t right for your brand, so always take a look at how other people are using it.
Types of Instagram hashtags
There are several different kinds of hashtags that you can use on Instagram, including:
- Location hashtags. These hashtags connect you with your local community and help you get in front of potential customers nearby. Some examples include:
- Popular hashtags. These hashtags tend to be super broad because lots of people use them. As a result, they’re not great for connecting with a specific niche, but can help your brand be seen by a broader audience. Some examples include:
- Trending hashtags. These hashtags are usually related to a specific event or theme and are super-popular for a shorter amount of time. These could include:
- Branded hashtags. These are exactly what they sound like! They’re hashtags that are specific to a brand or a marketing campaign. Some examples include:
- #ShareACoke by Coca-Cola
- #TweetFromTheSeat by Charmin
How many hashtags to use on Instagram?
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags in a post, and while most advice says to use around 10, research from Later shows that 20-30 hashtags for Feed posts are actually optimal. Here’s what they suggest:
- 20 hashtags for optimal reach
- 30 hashtags for optimal engagement
How to hide Instagram hashtags
Let’s face it: 20-30 hashtags is a lot. Below are some of our favourite ways to hide them so they don’t make your post look clunky:
- Add them as a comment. This has been the tried-and-true method for years. Just write your post caption and then add a comment with the hashtags you want to include.
- “Push” them down. Once you’ve written your caption, create new lines with just a period after each line to create “white space” that buffers your post caption from the hashtags.
- Cover them. This is a great way to use multiple hashtags in an Instagram Story post. Add your hashtags, then make the hashtag tex the same colour as your background or cover them with a sticker.
How to use hashtags on Instagram
As we’ve seen, hashtags are a powerful tool to help you promote your Instagram content to your ideal customers and target audience. Here are some ways to inject some strategy into your hashtag use:
Treat hashtags like keywords
Keywords are how websites optimize for SEO, and on Instagram, hashtags take the place of keywords.
Here at Starling Social we use a “blended hashtag strategy” which is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a blend of lower and higher-volume hashtags that help our client’s posts be seen by the widest possible audience.
Here are some examples:
- Broad, low intent: #nailsalon, #eyebrowthreading
- Less broad, medium intent: #eyelashtechnichan #browbarwinnipeg
- Specific, high intent: #browswinnipeg, #lasheswinnipeg
Save a list of “default” hashtags
While you shouldn’t repeat the same hashtags in a single post, you can repeat hashtags that work in different posts.
Here at Starling Social, we create a hashtag strategy document that lists the best hashtags to use that are organized popularity, relevance, and categorized by topic. This helps us go always choose the most strategic hashtags, no matter what the post is about.
Create your own hashtag campaigns
Some of the most widely-known campaigns have been hashtag-based. A great example is the #IceBucketChallenge which raised awareness for ALS and raised $115 million.
The trick here is to get your followers to want to use your hashtag, which means it needs to be something related to your business or the campaign you’re currently running.
Create a branded hashtag
As we discussed earlier, branded hashtags are a great way to generate awareness and encourage user-generated content (UGC) which is when other people include your hashtag in their content.
For example, we helped the Manitoba Museum come up with the branded hashtag #MyMBMuseum which they’ve used in campaigns, giveaways, and encouraged visitors to use when checking out exhibits at the museum.
Not sure how to create your own branded hashtag? Here are some tips:
- Make it unique. Be specific and include your brand name.
- Make it easy to remember. Long hashtags are easy to forget and can be annoying to type out, so make it short and snappy.
- Research it. Check the hashtag you’re considering to make sure it’s not already being used, or (even worse) being used for something insensitive or inappropriate.
Use hashtags for giveaways
One of the easiest ways to track entries in a contest (which can get overwhelming if you have lots of entries) is to use a hashtag associated with the contest. Not only does this make it easier for you to track entries, but you can repurpose any UGC it generates for your own feed!
Use other branded hashtags
If you’re looking to support or cross-promote with another brand, or think their followers would be interested in your content, then don’t be afraid to use their branded hashtag.
Instagram allows you to “follow” hashtags on the platform, so make sure you’re following these groups:
- Your branded hashtag. Staying on top of engagement related to your brand is critical, so make sure to follow your branded hashtag, if you have one.
- Your competitor’s hashtags. This allows you to keep tabs on them on the DL.
- Industry hashtags. This allows you to stay in-the-know about the latest trends and news in your niche.
- Geo-location hashtags. Following hashtags for your geographic area allows you to see content from people (aka, potential customers) in your city or region.
To follow a hashtag, just click the “follow” button in your search results.
Start using hashtags on Instagram
Hashtags are one of the most powerful tools at your disposal to grow your presence on Instagram. Use them to increase your reach, grow your follower count, and generate buzz about your business.
Looking for professional help with your Instagram strategy? Drop us a line and we’ll develop a plan that’s custom-fit for your business.